German Human Rights Commissioner Visits West Papua

After two unsuccessful attempts to visit West Papua in 2008 and 2012, a human rights commissioner of the German Government received the Indonesian government's authorization to enter West Papua in September 2015. During his two day visit, Christoph Strässer met with government representatives  and civil society actors.

 It was the first time the Indonesian government allowed a human rights commissioner to enter West Papua, after previous visits of two UN special rapporteurs eight years ago had resulted in the submission of two serious reports about the human rights situation in West Papua to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Christoph Strässer therefore stated that he regards the opportunity to visit West Papua as an important step by the Indonesian Government towards an opening of the region.

Strässer began his visit to Papua with a meeting at the Papua Governor's office.  In addition to the meetings with government officials, the German human rights commissioner also took time to discuss the human rights situation in West Papua with a representative of the Papuan regional office of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission and civil society leaders, such as the main actor of the Papuan Peace Network (JDP), Rev. Neles Tebay, and the chairman of the Papuan association of independent journalists (AJI), Victor Mambor.

The meetings with civil society actors revealed the widespread frustration amongst indigenous Papuans about the central government's failure to consequently implement the special autonomy law. Other main points of criticism were the impacts of the presence of international companies, the violent response of security forces to peaceful protest, as well as the widespread impunity enjoyed by security force perpetrators in West Papua.

Foto Straesser Papua

Strässer's main conclusion of the visit to West Papua was that the government had already passed the special autonomy law as a legal framework, which should be used by civil society to claim its rights, e.g. the implementation of a human rights court and truth and reconciliation commissions in West Papua. He also acknowledged the constant struggle of indigenous Papuans for a life in dignity on their island.